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     The pilot of the oil tanker that hit the Bay Bridge last week apparently decided at the last minute to change course and head between a different set of bridge towers, a tricky maneuver that may have played a role in the accident, experts said. The course change put him more at the mercy of a current that cuts beneath the bridge, and with a thick fog that suddenly swept in as he approached the towers, pilot Guy Kleess would have had less margin for error as he steered the Overseas Reymar the morning of Jan. 7, according to the experts.

    SF Chronicle
  • Unlicensed drivers and those whose licenses have been suspended or revoked are nearly three times more likely to cause a fatal crash than licensed drivers, a DMV study found. The study used crash data over a 23-year period and reviewed two-vehicle fatal crashes in which only one driver was at fault.

    Santa Rosa Press-Democrat
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    Anam Ardeshiri has himself been the victim of one of the great tragedies of urban parking. He’s parked his car – in this case in Baltimore – and then returned to it a mere two minutes after the meter expired, only to find a $32 ticket waiting for him. Legions of drivers can undoubtedly relate. But pity the meter maid who gives a parking ticket to a doctoral candidate in transportation and urban infrastructure studies. "I believe that for two minutes more, using this facility shouldn’t cost me 32 dollars," argues Ardeshiri, a Ph.D. student at Morgan State University. "It should cost at most one dollar, two dollars – and I’m willing to pay. But if it turns to 32 dollars, it’s not fair."...Smarting from his own experience, Ardeshiri designed a system that would make it possible to eliminate parking tickets all together.

    Atlantic Cities
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    FOR 35 years the steel bolts holding up the ceiling of Sasago Tunnel, on a busy toll road west of Tokyo, were never checked. On December 2nd more than 600 of them had worked themselves so loose that a 130-metre stretch of the roof collapsed, crushing nine motorists. The disaster played into the hands of Shinzo Abe, who two days later launched his successful campaign to become prime minister partly on a promise of renovating Japan’s rusting infrastructure. As promised, on January 10th Mr Abe approved a massive public-spending bonanza, expected to exceed ¥13 trillion ($150 billion)—more than was spent in emergency measures after the 2011 earthquake, and about 2.6% of GDP.

    The Economist
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    BEIJING is frequently shrouded in dense, yellowish smog so thick that the other side of the road is obscured. But the deadly smog that enveloped the city over the past weekend was so bad that air-quality readings from a monitor on the roof of the American Embassy said simply: "Beyond Index". The most polluted cities of the world's largest economies:

    The Economist
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    Much of Washington is in obstruction mode these days, but not the Federal Transit Administration. The FTA recently announced changes to New Starts and Small Starts — its main capital funding programs for transit — designed to expedite the grant process. Together the programs fund about half the cost of light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, and ferry systems in the United States.

    Atlantic Cities
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    ...If you were, say, an employee at the Pep Boys auto parts store, didn’t have a car on a given day, and wanted to grab a sandwich for lunch at Wendy’s right across the street, you’d have to walk nearly a mile, round trip, to cross the road with the benefit of a traffic signal. Even then, half your trip would have no sidewalk.... If they do get hit by a motor vehicle, under Virginia law the pedestrian is at fault for "interfering with traffic."

    Atlantic Cities
  • The greenest cars on the market — electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids — have attracted very few buyers so far. But instead of scaling back, major automakers are eager to bring more battery-powered models to their showrooms...G.M., the biggest American automaker, on Tuesday said it would begin production later this year of the Cadillac ELR, a luxury version of the Chevrolet Volt, the company’s current extended-range plug-in hybrid sedan.

    New York Times
  • The tiny black particles released into the atmosphere by burning fuels are far more powerful agents of global warming than had previously been estimated, some of the world’s most prominent atmospheric scientists reported in a study issued on Tuesday....The new estimate of black carbon’s heat-trapping power is about double the one made in the last major report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in 2007. And the researchers said that if indirect warming effects of the particles are factored in, they may be trapping heat at almost three times the previously estimated rate.

    New York Times
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    The two largest Japanese airlines said Wednesday that they would ground their fleets of Boeing 787 aircraft after one operated by All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing in western Japan, heightening concerns about the safety of the U.S. manufacturer’s latest plane....The emergency landing followed a string of problems in the past month with the Boeing 787, known as the Dreamliner, including a battery fire, fuel leaks and a cracked cockpit window. All Nippon said the problems Wednesday involved the same lithium-ion batteries that caught fire last week in Boston on a Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines.

    New York Times